CHICAGO – Crystal Lake Central’s Jason Penza caught the opening kickoff at the 5-yard line and took off.
The Tigers sophomore broke through the first wave of Amundsen defenders, reached the far sideline and kept running until he didn’t have to anymore.
A 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown set the tone for the rest of the day, as the No. 12-seeded Tigers scored on all seven of their first-half possessions en route to a 55-28 win over fifth-seeded Amundsen on Saturday at Winnemac Stadium.
The postseason win was the first for Central since 2012 after it had lost its past four openers. The Tigers (7-3) will host No. 4-seeded Deerfield (9-1) in a Class 6A second-round game at 7 p.m. Friday.
“It felt good,” said Penza, who also added two receptions for 65 yards. “I was just following my guys. Just seeing that green grass, just hitting it and go. I knew we needed to start fast today because it’s the playoffs.
“Getting to play in front of the home fans again [on Friday], it’s going to be cool.”
Class 6A football: Crystal Lake Central 55, Amundsen 14, 1:44 2nd. Madura to Blitek for 58 yards on a screen pass. Madura has 5 total touchdowns, 7-9 passing for 221 and also has 76 yards rushing. pic.twitter.com/TddHF0HVWH
— Alex Kantecki (@akantecki) October 30, 2021
The Tigers finished with 484 yards of total offense, with 396 of that coming in the first half. All eight of their touchdowns, including the opening kickoff, came before halftime.
Quarterback Colton Madura had a 6-yard scoring run with 8:12 left in the first quarter and tossed a 36-yard TD to Jake Carnrite for a 21-0 lead with 2:12 to go.
After the Vikings (8-2) scored on a a 79-yard pass from Elijah Hernandez to Adam Muench, Madura and the Tigers went right down the field, with the senior QB scoring on a 1-yard sneak on the last play of the first quarter for a 28-7 lead.
Madura had missed three games earlier in the season because of an injury. Central’s offense has been clicking again with him back.
Central led, 55-14, at halftime and took its starters out to start the second half.
“We’ve been really coming together as a family, and I think that’s really important and it’s why we keep succeeding,” said Madura, who went over 1,500 yards passing on the season Saturday. “We’re all playing as one, and that’s a really special thing.
“Jason’s [touchdown] just set the tone for us. It set the tone for the rest of the day, and that’s how we played all day.”
Madura was 7-of-9 passing for 221 yards and also had 76 yards rushing, finishing the game with five total TDs. Running back Brent Blitek had 85 yards rushing and two TDs, also adding a 58-yard screen pass for a score in the second quarter.
Carnrite finished with 51 yards receiving and a touchdown, George Dimopoulos had a 33-yard TD catch, and Penza added 50 yards on the ground. Griffin Buehler had 48 yards rushing in the second half with a running clock.
Central coach Jon McLaughlin said his team has been well prepared because of the competition it sees in the Fox Valley Conference each week.
“I think the conference prepares us for playoff-type games when you have to play Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove and even the teams that aren’t in the playoffs, it’s a dog fight every week [in the FVC],” McLaughlin said. The level of competition and level of intensity, I think that carries over because everybody’s battle tested.”
Central’s defense held Amundsen to only 28 rushing yards on 26 carries. Braydon Gibour and Jake Blum had two sacks apiece.
For Amundsen, quarterback Elijah Hernandez was 10-of-14 passing for 274 yards and four TDs. He connected with Adam Muench five times for 211 yards and three scores and also added a four-yard touchdown pass to running back Jamarion Hemphill in the third quarter.
Crystal Lake Central 55, Amundsen 28
CL Central 28 27 0 0 – 55
Amundsen 7 7 7 7 – 28
CLC–Penza 95 kick return (Carnrite kick), 11:48
CLC–Madura 6 run (Carnrite kick), 8:12
CLC–Carnrite 36 pass from Madura (Carnrite kick), 2:12
A–Muench 79 pass from Hernandez (Anglada kick), 1:08
CLC–Madura 1 run (Carnrite kick), 0:00
CLC–Blitek 20 run (kick missed), 8:41
A–Muench 59 pass from Hernandez (Anglada kick), 7:49
CLC–Dimopoulos 33 pass from Madura (Carnrite kick), 6:48
CLC–Blitek 2 run (Carnrite kick), 3:43
CLC–Blitek 58 pass from Madura (Virruso kick), 1:44
A–Hemphill 4 pass from Hernandez (Anglada kick), 6:15
A–Muench 27 pass from Hernandez (Anglada kick), 8:26
RUSHING–CL Central: Blitek 6-83, Fleming 1-16, Buehler 8-48, Penza 2-50, Madura 6-76, Team 3-minus 10. Total: 26-263. Amundsen: Hemphill 9-16, Hernandez 8-30, Cambero 1-0, Oldham 3-3, Team 5-minus 21. Total: 26-28.
PASSING–CL Central: Madura 7-9-0-22. Amundsen: Hernandez 10-14-0-274.
RECEIVING–CL Central: Carnrite 2-51, Blitek 1-58, Dimopoulos 1-33, Penza 2-65, Stanger 1-14. Amundsen: Muench 5-211, Oldham 3-59, Hemphill 1-4, Cambero 1-0.
TOTAL YARDS: CL Central 484, Amundsen 302
Source: The Daily Chronicle